What a great idea.
60 people gathered in Windsor to discuss the research report – 15 of them SRL’s from the study. The other 45 guests included judges from each participating province (including a Supreme Court of Canada justice), leaders of regulatory bodies (the Law Societies) in each province, directors of legal aid, court services managers, policymakers from the justice ministries and directors of pro bono service organizations. The goal? To present the normalcy, reasonableness and courage of SRL’s – and to give the 45 justice system folks a ring-side view on the experiences of individual SRL’s, in their own words.
Here is my favorite para:
First thing Saturday morning one of the SRL’s rose to his feet to say this: “In court, I felt like an outsider going into a bull fight. I was given the impression by the court that I was a troublemaker. Yesterday, through the discussions I felt that the burden of that label, that was imposed on me and I had accepted, was lifted.” Next a judge who had dined with a group of SRL’s the night before, stood up and said: “After years on the Bench, it is amazing to me that I need to come to Windsor, to get the first feedback I have ever had from a litigant who has appeared before my court. What other institution or service does not get direct feedback by some means from its client/customer/recipient population?” A SRL made the next, crucial, observation: “What I understood yesterday is that everyone is afraid, not just the SRL’s. Judges and lawyers don’t want to get involved with self-reps because they fear that then they will not be impartial. The court staff don’t feel that they can help because they are afraid of the consequences of giving legal advice. So the self-reps are always interacting with people who are fearful.”
Please read the whole thing, and think about how you might create a similar event in your jurisdiction. What might we learn? How might this stimulate change projects?